Tag Archives: No. Mad.

2022 Zero Waste Goal Recap (+2023 Goals)

*This article was written 22.11.01, please excuse any information that is no longer applicable.


I’ve decided to make these goal recap posts an annual thing as well. I think it’s important to hold myself accountable to the goals I set for myself, and one of the ways I’m able to do that, is by announcing them here on the website, and then making follow-up posts.

Now, usually, I don’t like shouting my goals or future aspirations from the rooftops – if you’ve been on following this website/my posts for a while, you’ll know this – but I’m trying to change that, at least for my zero waste goals, because I think it may be helpful to any of you readers to see how the zero waste journey goes.

It’s not always a straight line to changing your lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!

As cliché as it sounds, you only get one life, and it’s worth it to put in the effort to live the way you want. Not the way your parents, friends or even your partner want. It’s your life.

Before I get too far off topic, let me circle back to the point of this post: did I reach my 2022 zero waste goals?

If you missed 2022’s post, I said my goals for last year were to stop using or reduce my overall use of paper towels. I’m happy to report, I did it!

Kind of…

As said in the last post, I noticed my main consumption (is consumption the right word even though I’m not eating them?) of paper towels was when I needed to cut something up, or to use instead of a plate.

While I have managed to re-train myself and just use a cutting board or plate, I was/am still using paper towels for their main purpose: as a napkin. And I know, there are cloth napkins I could use, or even just get up and wash my hands/face after every meal. As I said above, changing your lifestyle is more of a marathon than a sprint. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Like veganism, you can choose to focus on changing one area, before moving on to changing another. And yes, technically using paper towels could be considered one area, but since I was using them for different reasons, I counted them as two.

So while I’m happy to report my consumption of paper towels has gone down, I haven’t completely eliminated them from my life. And truthfully, I don’t think I’ll ever eliminate them entirely. The trade off to using a paper towel as a napkin is to use a reusable cloth one, which sounds like a better zero waste option up front: it’s made of cloth, you use it multiple times and wash, instead of using it once and then throwing away.

While that sounds great, you’re really just exchanging one problem for another. Sure, you use a cloth napkin multiple times, but you have to wash it, which means you use more water than if you were to just use a paper towel.

I’m not trying to make excuses at all, just show you guys that even the ‘better’ options still have their… let’s call them complications. No matter what option you pick, you’re still potentially harming the planet, or not doing as much good as you think. Keep this in mind when also shopping for reusable substitutes – if you’re attempting to ship something new from overseas, that’s actually less environmentally friendly of an option than if you were to just continue using the plastic version of whatever the item is.

That said, I am going to continue attempting to lessen my use of paper towels, and am definitely interested in exploring reusable napkins. While I attempt to work my way toward 100% paper towel-less living, I will also continue to explore more sustainable options. As mentioned in last year’s post, Who Gives a Crap offers what they call Forest Friendly paper towels (which actually aren’t made out of paper at all) and while I was excited to try them, before I had a chance, they unfortunately had to stop selling their products in Canada. Their website says this is temporary, and they’re hoping to be back ‘soon’, but it’s been a few months* now and they still haven’t returned.

While waiting for my favourite brand to come back to Canada, I may have to explore other toilet paper alternatives, as well as explore other paper towel options. One thing I read said that as long as a paper towel didn’t have meat juice and/or cooked sauces on it, it could be put in a compost pile or backyard dirt instead of the garbage.

I’ll obviously have to continue to research that to learn all the ins and outs to ensure I’m doing it correctly and not just… littering while calling it being environmentally friendly.

Aside from continuing to reduce my paper towel consumption, I’m also going to focus on reducing my use of notebooks/notepads. As a writer, I use a lot of notebooks, notepads and random scraps of paper to write story ideas, character concepts, etc.

While I do mostly use my laptop, sometimes I don’t always have it with me, so instead I reach for a paper and pen. Other creatives will relate to the ‘I have to write this down right now before I forget’ moments. For those who aren’t, it’s sort of hard to explain. But, being a writer is definitely not an excuse for me to continue to use paper all the time!

I’m honestly not sure what options there are for reducing my notebook consumption, aside from using my laptop and phone notepad instead, but I’m very excited to learn!

If you have any suggestions of what I can use instead of a notebook for writing, or if you have any zero waste goals you’re hoping to achieve this year, let me know in the comments!


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Different Types of Toilets (For Going Tiny)

I know, I know, “You’re writing an entire article about toilets? Gross! Who would want to read that?”

Well, actually, that’s the funny part.

In my research of tiny house living, one of the most recurring things I see is people are absolutely fascinated by the fact that tiny houses (or vans or buses) can still have a toilet. While to me it seems silly – I mean, there are toilets on greyhound buses and airplanes – I guess I understand the confusion. If you can’t be hooked up to the cities sewage line, where does all that waste go?

It’s an important issue to tackle for sure, if you don’t know how you’ll be able to go, can you really ever be comfortable with tiny living? Thankfully, there are a few different options available for tiny toilets, which I’ll be going through with you now.

Also, as a disclaimer: I’m not currently living tiny, though I am saving up to do a bus conversion. So the below isn’t from personal experience.

While I’ve done my own research, and I implore you to do the same, I thought I should make an article about this now, while I’m still in the learning/pre-building phase. This way, you can learn from my experience, and (if needed) I can always update or make a new article once I’ve experienced living tiny to give you some insider advice.

There are three main types of toilets that people use when going tiny, so these are the types this article will be focused on: flushing toilets, composting toilets, and bucket toilets.

Let’s get started!

Instead of jumping into the deep end first, I figured I should start with the easiest type of toilet to understand: a flushing toilet.

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These toilets are almost exactly the same kind that you’re already used to using in your house, or in public restaurants. These toilets have a tank that fills with water, and you use a handle to flush your waste away.

But when you flush it ‘away’, it still has to go somewhere. It’s not like it just magically disappears off the face of the earth.

So, where does your waste go?

Well, if you live in a city, it most likely connects to the city’s sewer line. This means it goes on a looong journey away from your home, and you personally don’t have to deal with it passed flushing it down.

Alternatively, some people also have a septic tank, instead of a sewer line. A septic tank is a giant underground tank that connects to your toilet, just like a sewer line, except instead of having your waste be whisked away to some far away place and you never have to deal with it again, it goes into the tank – which is usually somewhere on your property.

The septic tank’s job is to hold your waste – both from your toilet and from other sources, like a kitchen sink – until it’s no longer, uh, waste, and then it disperses the contents into a designated drainage field. This could be your backyard garden, or even just your backyard grass. (Or front yard!)

So, how would a flushing toilet work on in a tiny house? Well, that would depend upon the type of tiny house you have. If you have an actual 400sq foot tiny home on or off wheels, you could plumb your flushing toilet directly into a sewage line, or into a septic tank. Your waste management really wouldn’t change all that much.

If you were to have a flushing toilet on a van or bus however, obviously because these homes are more mobile, you can’t connect your toilet to a permanent line in the ground, whether it’s for sewage or septic.

So, what do you do? Instead, you would need to add a Black Tank to your vehicle. A black tank is a (usually metal) tank that holds all your toilet waste (both liquid and solids) until you’re able to dump it out. There are designated black tank dumping stations around, but to do this, you would: need to make sure there’s one on the route you’re taking, manually hook up a pipe to the tank and hold it over the dumping hole while the waste comes out, have to then disconnect the hose, wash it out, close your black tank, and then get back on the road. You would have to do this every single time the tank gets full, and keep in mind that while standing over the dumping hole, you would be smelling everyone’s waste, not just yours.

Basically you’re dumping your waste into a giant hole in the ground. Like an outhouse.

If you think that’s way more up close and personal you’d like to get with your waste, don’t worry.

The next toilet we’re talking about is a little less hands on than a flushing toilet with a black tank.

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This type of toilet is called a composting toilet. If you’ve spent any time on van or bus life Instagram, or watched any tiny living videos on Youtube, you’ve probably heard about composting toilets.

These toilets are a type of dry toilet. This means these toilets require 0 water to handle your business. Some composting toilets separate your liquids and solids by using two different containers, and a short seat separator on the actual toilet seat itself.

One container holds your liquids, and needs to be dumped by hand, while the one that holds the solids actually turns it into compost.

Or at least, it starts the processes of turning it into compost.

The names of these toilets are somewhat misleading. Because the containers they have is usually small, and because humans release waste way too often, they don’t actually have the 3-6 months they need to fully break down your waste to make it actual compost.

In the solid waste container, you would add some sort of starter material (like coconut coir), then when you do your business, you would crank a handle that’s on the side of the toilet to mix your waste in with the starter. You would crank it each time you go, to make sure your waste and the starter is thoroughly mixed each time.

Once your container is full, you would then theoretically go dump it into a bigger compost mixer/compost pile, where it would sit and continue turning into compost. However, for some people who don’t have that as an option (for example, tiny lifers who are constantly on the move) you would instead dump your waste into an area that has heavy dirt. Ideally, a place where your waste could continue it’s compost journey.

If you have a separate liquids container, you would need to dump that somewhere separately. Some people choose to do this in public bathrooms, when the visit friends (so basically, they find a flushing toilet to use), or they dump it in a similar area to that of where it’s safe to dump the solid waste.

You would then wash/rinse out both containers, let them dry and then essentially reassemble your toilet to get it ready for next use. For the solids container, you would also have to make sure you put more starter into the bottom.

These types of dry toilets can be great to have, but they can get pretty pricey. Also, there are not very many sizes of seat to choose from. This makes a frequent complaint that the seat is too small for many people, which in turn makes the toilet hard to use.

This brings me to the last type of toilet: a bucket toilet.

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These toilets are similar to composting toilets, but have more of a DIY angle to them. You can also make them as simple, or complicated as you like. Technically speaking, you can just attach a toilet seat to a 5 gallon plastic bucket and call it a day.

If that’s for you, great! However, most bucket toilet users I’ve seen have a little bit of a more complicated set up than that. People who use this type of toilet usually build some sort of wood bench to fix the toilet seat to, then place the 5 gallon bucket (and liquid container!) into the box.

This set up is good because, depending on how big your bathroom is, you can usually put another hole in the top of the bench next to the toilet to house your cover material.

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What’s cover material? It’s exactly what it sounds like: it’s a material you use to cover your solid waste. This could be most types of organic material: coconut coir, peat moss, hay, wood shavings – some people even use coffee grounds!

It really depends on your individual needs. Some people find peat moss works best for them, while others swear by using hay. Unfortunately, this isn’t something you can be 100% sure of before you start using your toilet. Because there are so many factors, most people usually end up trying a few different materials before deciding which one works best.

The point of cover material though, is to cover your solid waste, and help break it down into compost. Similar to a compose toilets point, except bucket toilets don’t use a crank. (Though you could certainly add one!) Instead of crank mixing your waste with the cover material, every time you finish your business, you would sprinkle a layer of cover over top of your solid waste. Think of it like you’re making a waste lasagna. (… Sorry)

Then when the bucket is filled, just like with the compost toilet, you would need to find somewhere to dump it. Alternatively, if you get some bio degradable bags (and the waste weighs less than 5kg) you can toss your waste into a city public trash can.

I can’t say for sure whether or not this is allowed in every city around the world, but I know here in Canada, it’s allowed. This is because if it’s a small amount, it is technically treated the same as dog waste, or an adult diaper, which are both also allowed to be thrown into the trash.

If tossing in the trash isn’t an option for you – or if you just happen to not be in a city when you need to dump your toilet – you can also bury it in dirt, provided it’s a specific distance away from harvestable crops, and drinkable water.

You could theoretically do this without having it bagged, but I think it would be way less messy.

Practically any hardware store you can think of has 5g buckets for sale (Home Hardware, Canadian Tire, Lowes, etc.) and they’re all pretty cheap, which is a great pro if you choose to go this route.

I would give a long, hard think to the type of life you want to live while in your tiny before deciding on what kind of toilet you’ll get. If you’re planning on constantly travelling, setting up a flushing/hard-lined toilet would definitely hinder that.

Alternatively, if you plan on staying stationary and are too grossed out by the thought of having to get so intimate with your waste, a flushing toilet might be the best choice for you!

It all depends on you, so be sure to really think about it before committing. Especially if you’re not planning on going tiny alone! Be sure to get your partner’s input! Maybe you’d be okay with using a bucket toilet, because you’re not grossed out by the thought of handling your own waste, but how would your partner feel about it? Is that something they could do?

And if not, are you okay with always being the designated toilet emptier? Or would it be easier and save you a lot of headaches and potential arguments if you just started with a different toilet to begin with?

It’s not impossible to switch between the types once you’ve decided, but it will definitely save you a lot of time, energy and possibly even a lot of money, if you allow yourself time to take a step back and have a good long think about what truly fits your lifestyle.


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Zero Waste Thanksgiving Ideas

I know it may seem impossible to maintain your zero waste lifestyle on a day that is literally about gluttony, but, like most other things, it’s actually not as complicated as it may first appear.

Let’s start with the biggest issue facing Thanksgiving: the food.

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Now, I know this day is usually the one day a year you get to go all out and make a giant feast. I’m not saying not to do that, I’m just saying do it practically.

Yes, it’s possible to have a zero waste Thanksgiving dinner! It just takes a little more planning. For example, if you’re having a big get together, instead of having yourself make every dish, ask some of the guests to bring sides. This way, you lessen the burden on yourself, and the guests will bring side dishes they’ll actually eat.

The next step, would be to just make less. I know, I know, that’s easier said than done, but hear me out! Maybe instead of having 10 side dishes, you only have 5. If you absolutely must make 10 sides, maybe skip out on the appetizers. Also, ask yourself: are the 10 different pop options you have really necessary?

I think you’ll be surprised at how little your guests will care about the turned down menu options. Having less food/drinks available doesn’t mean the holiday is going to be any less special, after all!

If you do end up having food left over, because I mean let’s face it, it’s near impossible to have a Thanksgiving feast without at least one dish left – put some leftovers in a container and put them in your freezer! This is a great way to store leftovers, as they’ll last a lot longer than just shoving everything into the fridge. And, you’ll get a nice surprise, already made Thanksgiving dinner on one night when you just really don’t feel like cooking.

Another great thing you can do to minimize food waste is make your guests take home containers. This way, you’re spreading out all the leftover food, instead of having most of it go bad in your fridge before you have a chance to finish everything.

Some people claim they don’t like leftovers, but frankly, I don’t understand that. If you liked the dish yesterday, why wouldn’t you like it today? It just doesn’t make any sense!

Giving out leftover containers is also a great, simple way to give your guests a party favour that they’ll actually enjoy. My family has done this practically since I can remember, and our guests always love taking food home! Some of them have even told me they felt honoured.

Honoured!

Sure that might not be everyone’s reaction, but it’s such a simple thing that people really seem touched by, it just makes sense. If eliminating your food waste can help make someone’s day? Why wouldn’t you do it?

Moving slightly away from food, another thing you can do to help reduce waste is use actual dishes and cutlery.

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I know, I know, you use plastic/throw away because you don’t want to wash everything after the party’s over.

But who said cleaning up can’t be part of the party?

Instead of sitting around on your couch talking after the meal, or worse, ignoring your guests to watch something on TV, get up and go clean up the mess! Ignoring it won’t make it go away, and I guarantee you are not gonna feel like doing it later.

Stop putting it off and go clean up. And bring your guests! Continue your conversation while you pack up the food, or put on some music and have a dance party while you wash the dishes.

Getting your guests involved in the clean up also goes hand in hand with giving them a leftovers container to take home. You ask them to go through the table and put some of whatever dishes they want in their containers. This will not only get them excited to help you (and honestly they might be too wrapped up in picking some delicious food to bring home to realize they’re even cleaning) but will also save you from using unnecessarily big containers when it comes time to pack everything up.

Once all your guests have had a go at the table, then break out the fridge containers. You may be surprised at how many smaller containers you need, instead of the big ones that don’t stack nicely.

You may also underestimate how fun cleaning up can be when you have friends/family to distract you from the ‘chore’ you’re doing.

My mom always says there’s two kinds of people: dining room people, and kitchen people. Now, I don’t want anyone to get offended by this statement. It pretty much just means there are people who think hosting requires putting on a show, decorations, etc. and those who… don’t.

Cooking and clean up can be just as much a part of the party as the rest of the evening. You just need to do it right!

Aside from using real plates/cutlery, making less food, giving your guests food to take home and freezing, you may think there isn’t much else you could do to keep your Thanksgiving zero waste.

Well, you’d be wrong!

There are plenty of other things you can do!

Instead of using paper towels or those novelty paper napkins with designs on them, use handkerchiefs, or other reusable napkin alternatives. Then at the end of the night, toss them in the laundry. Or, if you must use paper towels/throw away napkins, don’t throw them away! Let them break down in your garden or backyard, instead. Have a friend who has a garden? Give them to that person!

Just be careful with some of those novelty paper napkins – some of them have plastic in them for some reason (don’t ask me why, I could make an entire other rant post about the dumb places plastic is found), so be sure to check that before letting them break down in your soil.

Want to decorate for the season? Make decorations out of old clothes or repurpose old linens (bed sheets, pillow cases, etc.) instead of buying those cheap, plastic decorations at the store. Not only will it be more zero waste, crafting decorations can be super fun! You can even make it a part of your festivities. Have a decoration contest before/after dinner, then hang up the best ones! The best part of this is getting your guests in on the fun, and you can save them for next year.

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Another bonus of crafting instead of buying your decorations, will be eliminating that expense from your budget. This will allow you to buy something else instead (Christmas is right around the corner, after all!) or, you can even just save the money. Who couldn’t benefit from adding a little extra to their savings?

Or, if you’re not that big into crafting, use nature! Go out and pick some flowers, grab some fallen leaves, pinecones, or even pick up a gourd or two. Just be sure to wash them before using for the table centrepiece. The last thing you’d need is bugs getting into all the food.

These are all things you should be able to try without exerting too much extra effort. And, there’s obviously more you can do than just the tips I’ve listed here, these are honestly just the things I thought of off the top of my head.

Also? Don’t worry so much about having a ‘perfect’ zero waste Thanksgiving. Zero waste is impossible to achieve in today’s society anyway. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself!

Try your best to be as low waste as possible, and enjoy your holiday.

And if something wasteful slips through the cracks? Make a note of what it was, and try to do better next year.

Do you have any zero waste Thanksgiving ideas you’d like to share that I missed? Let me know in the comments!


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Solar Panels: Types and Pros and Cons

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ve at least heard of solar panels. They’re those big, (sometimes ugly) blue panes people put on their roofs to get free electricity from the sun.

What most people don’t know, is just how complicated choosing not only the right type of panel is, but also the amount of panels you’ll need can be.

Lucky for you, that’s exactly what I’m going to be talking about in today’s article.

I want to start out by saying I am in no way an expert on solar panels. I’ve just done some research – actually, a lot of research – and discovered there are a lot of frustrating inconsistencies and tips out there.

I’m hoping to alleviate some of those frustrations by providing an easy to understand article for fellow solar panel newbs, so they have the best shot at getting the exact panel that meets their needs.

First thing you’ll need to figure out before even thinking about stepping foot into a store (or ordering a panel online) is which kind of panel you’ll need.

Yes, that’s right – there are different kinds of panels! In my research, I’ve found three main different kinds: the classic panel, a flexible panel and sticker panels.

The ‘classic’ panel is probably what you imagine when someone says ‘solar panel’: it’s usually a large rectangle shape, with blue squares and a white boarder that makes it somewhat look like a window. These usually have little mounts or ‘feet’ you need to attach the physical panel to your roof (or ground/wherever you want to put your panel) and are said to work ‘best’ if they’re mounted on a slight angle, instead of 100% flat.

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The second kind, a flexible panel, is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a flexible solar panel. These flexi-panels are great, because you don’t need to mount them. Instead, you can lay them directly on your roof. What makes laying the panels directly on your roof so great? The fact you can walk on them! This is amazing if you’re (for example) building out a van or bus that has limited roof space. Instead of designating part of your roof to say, a deck/storage area, and the other half to the panels, you can lay these panels all over your roof, and still use part of it as a deck/storage area.

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The last kind we’re going to be talking about, is a sticker panel, which is also exactly what it sounds like. These panels are best to stick on your most sun-facing windows – not a roof – and give the windows a slight tint, similar to limo tinting.

Because these panels go on your windows, you can have all the roof space you want for other things like a deck or storage, and don’t have to worry about walking over them.

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Now that you know the difference between these three types of panels, you may be thinking you know the type you need. But don’t jump the gun! There’s a lot more to take into consideration than just whether or not you can walk on a panel.

One of the biggest things you need to figure out – and really, it should’ve been the first thing you figured out – is what your energy consumption is. If you don’t know this, I highly, highly recommend you find out. Either go look at your electric/hydro bill, do your best to keep track of your consumption over the course of a month or so, or use an online calculator.

I guarantee you’re using more power than you think you are. Most people tend to underestimate their consumption habits. And while I get it – we as humans are not so good at highlighting our flaws – that type of under-reporting will do nothing but hurt your chances of success in the long run.

This isn’t about shaming yourself, it’s about accurately getting a picture of how you’re already living. This way, you can accurately assess how you’ll be living your tiny home. And sure, you might be able to cut back in a few ways when you go tiny, but I personally would rather be over-prepared than under.

I’m the type of person to bring a small first aid kit with me wherever I go. Usually, I end up not needing it, and you could argue it’s just taking up space in my bag. However, the times when I have needed it? I was definitely happy it was there!

Okay, I feel like I’m getting slightly off topic. Below, I’m going to share the equation I learned to calculate the amount of solar you need.

I know, I know ‘ew, math!’ well unfortunately, math is important for some of these tiny living steps. It can seem too hard and complicated, but it’s 100% worth learning!

Also, there’s an added bonus of once you learn what it all means, it’ll be infinitely easier to fix any issues that come up. And, you only need to figure all of this out once.

This is the equation: Yearly kWh cost / ‘full sunlight hours’ = Total Watts Needed

kWh is the abbreviation for kilo Watt hours, which should be the unit of measure that’s used on your hydro/electric bill.

Because I’ve never had my own home, (if you missed the Intro post, I’m living at home, and this bus build will be my first moved out living space) I didn’t have any energy consumption to use for the equation.

This meant I had to ask my mom what our usage was. She informed me that our highest (5-person household) usage was 18 kWh. This was our consumption for one month, not a year!

This was our highest consumption at one point for the month of July – which was back when all 4 kids were home during summer vacation, we had the AC going all day, were cooking pretty much daily, and doing the 5-ish loads of laundry (in our double-load washer) every week we had to do so we didn’t run out of clothes.

So for me, I had to do some additional math, to figure out what that number was for 1 whole year.

18 kWh x 12 (months in a year) = 216 kWh

Now that I had our total consumption for a year, I could do the above equation:

216 kWh / 1166 (full sunlight hours in Ontario) = 0.1852 TWN

Then, to get the total cost of the solar you need: Total Watts Needed x ‘Average’ Solar Panel Cost (in your area), which for me, is $2.78.

0.1852 x 2.78 = 0.5148

According to this, my entire solar panel set up should only cost me 51 cents. Even with a USD to CAD conversion rate, I knew that couldn’t be correct.

So, I went back over my math to try and determine where the heck I went wrong.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to figure it out. I had done the equations exactly as the article instructed, used a calculator, and even asked some of my more math-savy friends if my numbers matched up.

I even tried some different online solar panel calculators, to no avail – one of them even told me I needed -2 panels!

I’m still to this day (22.06.28) trying to figure out where I went wrong, however, I wanted to share my experience in this article, as a sort of example of just how confusing some of these calculations can get.

I know I’ll figure it out some time, and I’ll definitely update this article to include the correct way of doing things when that day comes – but for now, I’m going to continue to focus on things I do understand.

Which, for the purposes of this article, include taking a more in-depth look at the pros and cons of the different types of solar panels.

The Classic Panel

Pros:

  • Usually the cheapest of the three
  • Most widely available for public purchase
  • Least likely to break (due to sturdy bracket mounting)
  • Only panel that you can change the angle after installed

Cons:

  • Need to put holes in your roof (for the aforementioned brackets)
  • Needs it’s own dedicated space
  • Heaviest of the three
  • Rigid, big and bulky
  • Raises total height of your roof (this is especially important if mounting on a vehicle, in which case you need to take into account total height for law compliance, as well as flexibility to drive under bridges)
  • The most difficult to take down and remount (in the event you move)

 

The Flexible Panel

Pros:

  • Can walk on/store things on top
  • Easiest to clean
  • Conforms to a variety of roof shapes
  • Less roof holes
  • More aesthetically pleasing than the Classic panel
  • Lighter weight
  • Has raised dots to help gather sunlight

Cons:

  • Has the least variation of sizes available (at least in Ontario)
  • Cannot change angle once mounted
  • Their lighter weight means they could possibly fly away in strong winds (even with proper installation)
  • More prone to scratching

 

The Sticker Panel

Pros:

  • Doesn’t take up roof space
  • No roof holes
  • Easiest to install
  • Most lightweight of the three

Cons:

  • Shortest lifespan
  • Not widely available for public purchase
  • Most expensive of the three
  • Usually need more panels (since these go on windows, and windows tend to be smaller in size than a roof)
  • Easiest type to damage (due to their thinness)
  • Tints your window, allowing less sunlight into your home
  • Prevents the windows they’re on from being usable (can’t open)

Obviously, this isn’t a complete list of the pros and cons of each type of panel. If I were to do that, this article would be way too long. So instead, I’ve listed what I feel are the most important points for each type of panel.

I also haven’t mentioned some things that all three types have in common, such as: installing any kind of solar panel will lower your carbon footprint, they will also help lower (or completely eliminate) your electric/hydro bill, all three pull in roughly the same amount of sun, their effectiveness is greatly affected by the type of weather you have, all three have a pretty high up front cost and many places won’t even allow you to add them to your home at all.

I know the world of solar panels can be confusing, and even scary when you’re just starting out. However, familiarizing yourself with the pros and cons of each type, and doing your own research should help alleviate your concerns.

All in all, getting free power from the sun is amazing, and I highly encourage you to continue your solar panel research as it’s, in my opinion, the best option for powering your tiny.


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The Trash Jar

If you’ve been in the zero waste tags on social media, I’m sure you’ve seen those posts where people claim they can fit a year’s worth (or more) of their trash in a mason jar. I understand why they use it – it’s a very effective, shocking picture to most people who don’t think about how much trash they’re actually producing.

But, it’s bullshit!

For one, there is always a reason you could come up with to leave a certain piece out of the jar. Many I’ve seen say they only use the jar for their ‘actual’ trash, and that it doesn’t count their recycling, or food waste. And what about glass jars, or other plastic containers they’re reusing?

It can also make zero waste seem unattainable. Hell, even the term ‘zero waste’ makes it sound impossible! But, here’s the real scoop: you don’t actually have to produce zero waste to live a zero waste lifestyle. In this day and age, it’s virtually impossible to have absolutely no waste, anyways, so trying to make that your goal will just drive you crazy at best, and at worse, make you quit before you even get started.

I understand that waste is a big problem we’re facing globally. When we throw something away, it doesn’t magically disappear – it has to still go somewhere. Kind of like when you finish eating and you do the dishes. You say you put the dishes ‘away’ after washing them, but they’re not actually ‘away’, they’re still there. You just put them in a different spot.

Driving ourselves crazy trying to reduce our own waste is not and should not be the goal for zero waste living. Companies and manufacturers should be the ones trying to implement zero waste initiatives. If every company produces food in plastic packaging, what are we as consumers expected to do, not eat? No, instead, we should be voting with our dollars.

A company can only exist if there are people buying their products. So instead of placing all the burden on us to completely fix the waste problem (which is virtually, if not entirely impossible), we should be using our collective voices to tell companies what we will – and won’t – buy from them. If enough customers tell a company something, they will change how they offer their products to meet demand.

This is literally how supply and demand works!

Now, you may be thinking, ‘okay, well what if I just grow my own food? Then I wouldn’t have to worry about plastic/waste packaging from companies’. Well, that’s only about half right. Yes, you wouldn’t have to buy plastic wrapped food, but growing your own food still produces waste. There’s seed packets, pots/plant beds, soil, watering products, special lights (if wanting to grow inside), gardening tools, etc.

You would have to go to a store and purchase all of the above, many of which would at least have a barcode sticker or some sort of tag, and at most, come in a (most probable) plastic bag. All those little bits of trash would still have to go in the jar. And sure, you could leave the barcode sticker on the product (depending on what it is), but that wouldn’t mean it’s not still a piece of trash.

And that’s not even mentioning how difficult it can be to try and start growing your own food. Also, not everyone lives in a climate that would allow them to do this, and their living situations may be too small to do so inside. Or, they may be too busy to start a home garden. It takes a lot of time and commitment to attempt growing your own food, and for many people, it’s just not a viable option.

While showing a picture of trash in a jar may be a cool aesthetic for social media purposes, it’s really not attainable, but that’s okay! As long as you are a person who is actively trying to produce less waste, then you are doing just fine.

I know it can be hard, but try not to be too hard on yourself. You cannot single-handedly solve the waste issues of the entire world!

Just… try your best.


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Soap Nuts: My Experience (Eco Nuts Soap Nuts Sample Review)

This article is talking about soap nuts. To save time, I’ve shortened this to  ‘nuts’ during most of the article, resulting in some… funny sentences. Please try to excuse these as you read through the article.


Like before committing to doing most things, I did some research about soap nuts long before I decided to try them.

In my research, I learned that soap nuts grow primarily in two places: the Himalayan mountains, and Canada. Being in Canada, I thought it would make more sense for me to try some soap nuts that were native here. If for nothing else, it would be pretty wasteful/silly of me to ship something in from another country that naturally grows here, right?

Right. Or, so you’d think.

Apparently, Canadian soap nuts (which are commonly referred to as ‘buffalo berries’), are considered endangered, and thus are not available for purchase. While I understand wanting to preserve the plant (you can’t even buy the seeds to plant your own!), as said above, it seems silly for Canadian who want a more natural laundry detergent to have to spend money on shipping a native plant from the Himalayas.

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That said, I really wanted to see if they were worth the hype, so I found this company called Eco Nuts, and ordered their sample pack of soap nuts in late May, 2021. (They arrived early June) This was a Canadian company that unfortunately no longer exists (they were already going out of business when I placed my order). I had naively thought that if I was ordering from a Canadian company, I would be getting the Canadian buffalo berries.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case, as their About page stated that their nuts were from the Himalayan mountains.

The quest for buying Canadian soap nuts aside, I was actually very impressed with how well they worked, and was even gifted a bag of soap nuts from the biggest Canadian distributor, Sinfully Wholesome for Christmas in 2021, so I thankfully have a lot of soap nuts to go through while I try to figure out another more natural, native solution.

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Even though it was a sample box, the Eco Nuts Sample was a lot smaller than I thought it’d be. I had no idea how big the berries were, or how many I’d get to fulfill 10 loads of laundry (as the sample pack page said).

Turns out, 4 whole berries + 1 half and a mesh bag was all I apparently needed.

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Now, I’m going to be honest, I ended up reading the FAQ page wrong at first, so my soap nuts didn’t last for 10 loads.

See, the way soap nuts work is that they have this thing called saponin in them, which is the part that makes them actually clean stuff. It’s also the thing we try to replicate when making man-made soaps. To get the nuts to secrete it, you have to agitate the nuts (or rub them together in your hands) and use some warm water to soften the hard exterior shell, so it can seep out.

Now, as someone who has a lot of dark-coloured clothes, I basically exclusively wash all my clothes in cold water, because using hot water a) is bad for them, since it could make the colours bleed, or shrink them, and b) uses unnecessary resources/heat and therefore, wastes money. (And let’s be honest, not many of us have ‘extra’ money to blow on something so small)

Anyway, so on the Eco Nuts FAQ page, it said that if you were going to wash clothes in cold water, you could still use the nuts, just that you had to make a sort of tea with them – put the nuts in the mesh bag, and then pour boiling/hot water on them, let them soak (to get the saponin out), then pour the ‘tea’ into the washing machine, then wash as normal.

The part of that I seemed to miss, was the part that said you’re supposed to pour both the tea and the bag of nuts in the washer, because they will still secrete some saponins, because of the agitation of the machine. So the very first load I did with them, I just dumped the tea in, and left the nuts out.

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Soap nut ‘tea’, I used a chopstick as a stir stick.

Honestly though, I did it exactly the way I make tea, meaning I boiled water in my kettle, and immediately poured it over the nuts, so I think I took out all the saponins that were inside them. Which isn’t necessarily bad, but I think because I did this, I kind of screwed myself for the following loads.

The first tea I made, the colour was a dark brown colour, and it actually looked like I had made tea with them. The second tea I made, the water colour barely changed. And the third time I made the tea, it didn’t change colours at all.

Aside from that, when I made the first ‘tea’, I discovered that the nuts had a faint smell to them while they were soaking. It wasn’t a bad smell per se, but it also wasn’t good. It faintly smelled like clean laundry, but also had a… pungent-ness that definitely wasn’t apitizing. Which I guess is good, because even though they’re called soap nuts, you’re not really supposed to eat them.

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Close up of a dry soap nut and the mesh bag, fresh out of the sample pack.

After washing my clothes as normal, using the tea, when I pulled them out to put the in the dryer, I smelled them, and they didn’t smell like anything. They didn’t smell dirty/unclean, but they also didn’t have that artificial ‘cleanliness’ smell that most detergents leave. They were neutral.

Some people may not like their clothes smelling like nothing, but honestly since I started this more natural living journey, I found it actually quite refreshing. I don’t know if it’s my mind playing tricks, or something that happens once you start cutting out a lot of man-made chemical products from your day-to-day, but I’ve actually notice myself becoming more sensitive to those chemical smells.

And the weirdest part is they never used to bother me before! I used to just smell the smell, and not the chemicals, if that makes sense. I used to find it pleasant, and now I just… don’t. Whether it’s laundry detergent, certain soaps and shampoos, dryer sheets, or aerosol sprays, they’re just not things I want around me, anymore. (Not that I wanted them around me anyways, but that was ‘just the way it was’)

The website also said that soap nuts had natural anti-static and anti-cling properties, so you wouldn’t need a dryer sheet when drying. I’d been not using dryer sheets for a little bit before that (I made some homemade ones and had been using those) so I didn’t bother tossing in a ‘regular’ (store-bought) dryer sheet, or a homemade one.

The clothes came out not static-y at all, but I don’t think this was more the material of the clothes I was washing, and not the soap nuts themselves, because on a later load, I did the same thing, and the clothes came out very static-y.

I only ended up using this pack of soap nuts for 4 loads of laundry, because as I said above, the ‘tea’ I made seemed to get much weaker after the 1st time. I still have the nuts and the bag, though. I was actually going to save them to do a comparison for this article, so you could see the difference between new and dried up soap nuts.

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Soap nuts air-drying after being through the washer.

I say ‘was’ because while I can see with my eye that the nuts are a different colour, for some reason, the difference hardly shows up on my phone camera. I don’t know if there’s some colour setting I need to change, or if it’s just a lighting thing, but I couldn’t get a good comparison picture, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

You can definitely tell the used nuts are a lighter when compared to not-used nuts. They most likely will also not remain whole by the time you’re done with them. Especially if making ‘tea’ with them, you’ll need to stir them around in the water to make sure the saponins are actually coming out. Submerging the nuts like this makes them soft, and thus more prone to breaking.

All in all, I definitely think soap nuts are a great alternative for people looking to change to a more natural laundry detergent/cleaner. I also think if you’re able to get your hands on some (sustainably, of course), you should definitely test them out for yourself!


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2 Zero Waste Recipes to Replace Store Bought

Going zero waste might seem like a massive undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be!

No one is saying you have to throw out all your non-zero waste items/products – in fact, it’s actually less ‘zero waste’ if you do! It’s much better to use what you have, and then when it comes time to replace things, swap out landfill-bound items for more sustainable ones.

Doing this will not only ensure you use up everything you have until it’s gone, which in term will be better for the environment, but it can also help lessen the amount of stress you feel to switch your lifestyle.

Listen, I get it: now that you know, you can’t un-know, and you want to get started on being the new you ASAP. That is fantastic news – the world needs as many eco-heroes as it can get! But instead of creating more unneeded waste, start slow, and build up your eco-friendly life one thing at a time.

To get you started, I’ve listed 2 zero waste recipes you can switch your store-bought items for the next time you finish them. Keep in mind, that while these DIY recipes are better for the environment, they may not work exactly the same as store-bought products. But, I don’t want you to fret, I’ve tested and used both, and they still get the job done!

1. Toothpaste

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Baking Soda
  • 4 Drops Peppermint Essential Oil (Optional)

First up, is this zero waste toothpaste. This recipe is great, because it only has 3 ingredients (or 2), and comes together in less than 5 minutes! (Assuming you don’t have to run around your house or go to the store to order the ingredients) Just mix together all the ingredients in a jar, or storage container, and boom, you’re done. What could be easier than that?

Another great thing about this toothpaste is: you know exactly what’s in it! Not only that, but you’ll get the same benefits as traditional toothpaste, without all the unnecessary added ingredients or manmade chemicals!

Baking soda is actually the ingredient traditional toothpastes use to clean your teeth, and it’s also been used as a whitening agent. (You can use baking soda both as a whitening agent for laundry [which will be talked about below] and for teeth)

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The coconut oil has antimicrobial properties, and it’s a natural alternative to other manmade chemical-laded antimicrobial products, which means it’s naturally healthier for you. Being a natural ingredient not only means it’s SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) and SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate) free, but it’s also been shown to inhibit the growth of bad mouth bacteria, like s. mutans (Streptococcus mutans is the official name). These s mutans are one of the major bacteria’s that cause plaque and tooth decay due to their acidity.

SLS and SLES are foaming agents that are often found in shampoos, soaps, etc. They are the reason for all the bubbles/suds you get when you lather, however, they have been shown to cause allergic reactions (which is something I found out the hard way when testing some Lush shampoo), and, when used in toothpastes, they can actually mess with your taste buds!

The peppermint essential oil may seem like it’s just there to give you a better flavour, which is right – it will give you that classic mint-y clean feel you’re used to, but peppermint essential oil has a lot of other great benefits as well! One of which, is giving your energy levels a boost. I’m not too sure on the exact science as to why it gives you an energy boost (I haven’t done too much research into essential oils yet), but I can definitely attest to it working!

Whether that’s a matter of placebo or not is yet to be determined, but in either case, it will definitely make this homemade toothpaste taste better (without, it will taste like baking soda + coconut oil, which is pretty salty and not in a good way), so if nothing else, you could still use it for that.

I’ve been using this homemade toothpaste since April 2021, and aside from the saltiness the first time using it (I didn’t add enough peppermint), I don’t really have any complaints. It works great! The only thing to note is that because the base is coconut oil, it may solidify, or liquefy depending on the temperature. This is completely normal, and you can still use it in either state.

However, if you need it more solid (or less solid), you can either pop the jar into the fridge, or run it under hot water, or, place it in front of a vent/near something hot for a few minutes. You may also need to re-stir the coconut oil and baking soda together if it liquefies.

*Important: Make sure if you’re using essential oil, you get one that says it’s safe to consume. Some of them say to not use orally!

 

2. Laundry Cubes/Toilet Cleaner

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Ingredients:

  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar

I know how this sounds, but baking soda + vinegar can be used to clean just about anything, and these cubes are perfect for a lot of those different uses!

I originally made these cubes after wanting to switch my man-made chemical-filled laundry detergent. I had discovered the world of soap nuts, but while I was on my quest to get my hands on some (apparently the native-to-Canada ones can’t be sold/bought because they’re protected), I still had to do laundry.

Since I had already learned vinegar + baking soda was strong enough to clean a toilet bowl, and bath tub, I figured it was strong enough to clean my not-that-dirty everyday clothing. I did a bit of research anyway, and discovered vinegar and baking soda were used often in conjunction with conventional laundry detergents to help up their oomph.

I learned baking soda was often used to make white clothes whiter, and vinegar was a natural way to eliminate odours, brighten and even soften clothing. This is because it contains acetic acid, which also makes it a disinfectant, antibacterial, and anti-a-lot-of-other things. (This is why vinegar can be used to clean so many household items)

After learning that, I figured what the hell, and decided to try doing a load. The load I did was of my reusable pads, and while I was a little skeptical when they went in, I was really impressed with how they came out! The mixture had gotten all of the blood stains (‘gross!’ I know, but that’s just what happens when you get blood in fabric) out, and had completely eliminated that used pad smell. In fact, when I pulled them out of the washer, they didn’t smell like anything. There was no ‘this is clean’ fake laundry detergent scent, but they also no longer had that ‘we’re dirty’ smell – they were neutral.

It may have also been my imagination, or the agitation from just being in the washing machine, but they also felt more ‘fluffy’ then when I had tossed them in. I don’t know if it was for sure the baking soda and vinegar, but the next load I tried I did regular clothes, and, (once they came out of the dryer) I discovered they were much softer than usual, and they weren’t static-y at all.

After test washing two loads (one pads, one clothes) with the mixture, I decided to go ahead and make a bigger batch to be used for later loads. I have an ice cube tray I had used when making shower bombs as x-mas gifts for friends and family a few years ago that I used, and I used the same formula to make the cubes.

First, I measured out the baking soda into a bowl, then, I very, very slowly (like, 1 tsp at a time slowly) added the vinegar, mixing after each spoonful, to make sure it was fully incorporated. Once thoroughly mixed, I filled the ice cube tray, and let the cubes dry out.

Once they were mostly dry, I turned the cubes out of the tray onto a wire rack (like one used to cool cookies), and let them sit for another 24 hours, just to make sure they were fully dried.

After that, I transferred them to a jar for storage. Then, whenever I needed to do laundry, I could just take a cube and toss it into the water as the washing machine filled up.

This recipe makes 12 cubes, however, you can make the cubes smaller in size, if you aren’t doing big loads of laundry. I have a double load washer, meaning I can fit twice as many clothes in 1 wash as a regular person, so a full cube is perfect for doing those big loads. But if you’re doing clothes for say, one or two people, a half-sized cube should work fine.

You could still use a full cube, since it’s not like it would over-wash your clothes, but if you want to get the most you can out of one batch, I’d recommend making half-sized ones, instead.

Of course, once you make a batch, you can always experiment to see how big of a cube you personally need.

Also, if you’re using it as a toilet bowl cleaner, it’s similar to the washing machine: drop it into the bowl, and then let it sit for a few minutes (I usually do about 5-10) before scrubbing it with the brush. Flush once done scrubbing, and it should be clean and ready to go!


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Switching to a Zero Waste Toilet Paper (Who Gives a Crap Review)

On my journey into living a more zero waste lifestyle, I discovered a pretty startling fact about toilet paper. Though I’ve said it a few times already in other posts, it really belongs at the start of this one: We cut down 27,000 trees everyday to make toilet paper.

This is such an outrageous stat, that even though I learned it last year, it still partially breaks my brain whenever I think about it.

Seriously, think about it: it takes a long time for a tree to fully grow. Sometimes it takes 40, 50 or hell, even 100 years – an entire lifetime for them to reach their peaks, and what do we do with them? Cut them down, only to use them in something we use 1 time, and then immediately discard.

Call me crazy, but if I worked 40 years (or longer) on something, and then had to watch someone tear it down just to turn it into something they immediately threw away, I’d be pretty upset.

So, what are we to do? The obvious answer would be to just stop making toilet paper. But then there’s the issue of what we use instead. Sure, bidets are a thing, but I don’t think they’re for everybody.

And what other solutions are there, if someone doesn’t want to try a bidet? They could shower after every time they use the bathroom, so that they’re clean, but that would be highly impractical, and, not to mention, a huge waste in water.

So, what else is there to do?

The other solution is to start making toilet paper out of something else.

Sounds crazy, right? Well, thankfully, it’s not! Some companies are already doing this. Like the company I’m going to be talking about today: Who Gives a Crap.

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Aptly named for a company who’s main focus is toilet paper, they have an amazing solution to our paper-y woes. Their toilet paper is made either out of bamboo, or recycled paper.

But Ater, isn’t cutting down bamboo just as bad as cutting down a tree?” That’s a great question! It wouldn’t be much of a solution if we were just depleting something else, would it? Well, thankfully, bamboo is a type of grass, so it grows back quickly – much more quickly than a tree would, which makes it a great substitute to regular paper tp.

I know what you must be thinking, how in the heck would bamboo toilet paper even work? Isn’t bamboo just for aesthetic looking wood furniture? Nope, it’s not. It can be turned into paper, and other materials, too!

It does have a different feel than paper toilet paper, but it’s nothing too jarring, I promise!

Take a look here:

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Here is a roll of WGAC’s bamboo toilet paper (on the left), next to a roll of Charmin Extra Strong. (Charmin was the toilet paper I was using before switching)

As you can see, the bamboo roll is slightly bigger in size, and the cardboard roll it comes on is smaller, so you get more toilet paper per roll. You may also be able to tell, that the bamboo roll looks firmer/stiffer than the regular paper one.

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This is a close-up of the bamboo’s texture. It is pretty comparable to a paper towel, one side is bumpy and slightly rough, and the other is softer, but still firm. The firmness makes it great at, erm… doing what toilet paper is meant to do, and it doesn’t disintegrate as you use it, unlike some other softer products.

This is actually something I noticed that happened with their recycled paper toilet paper. It still has one rough-ish side, and one softer side, but the softer side is way softer than the bamboo – it’s actually the same softness as the Charmin roll. Which makes sense, since the recycled one is still made out of paper. For me, personally, I value structural integrity over super softness, so I’ll be sticking with their bamboo paper from now on. (Once I finish the recycled rolls, of course)

If you’re still undecided, you can always get a box of both, and see which one you like better. They only sell their toilet paper in boxes of 24 or 48 rolls, so unfortunately if you end up not liking one of them, you’ll have a lot of them to get through.

But, you could always gift some of the rolls to people you know, or use them as emergency rolls if you run out of the other kind.

Switching was also super easy. Like, ridiculously so. I just placed my order online and waited for it to show up. Then, once it got here (and I sprayed it with isopropyl alcohol to sanitize), I found a spot to put the box, and used as normal.

If you’re thinking of switching (which I highly recommend), I would warn you to order before you’re in desperate need of replacement toilet paper. Both my orders (bamboo and recycled) arrived in 14 days. So, y’know, make sure you have enough toilet paper to cover that waiting period, or longer, depending on where you’re located.

My first order, which was the 24 box of the bamboo rolls, was $55.79 CAD ($42 USD) because I had to get it from the US site. (Their Canadian site didn’t exist then) When I placed my order for the recycled paper (another 24 box), it was only $47.46 CAD, because I was able to get it from the Canadian site.

That may seem like a pretty steep price to some people, but it’s definitely worth the bit of extra cost in my eyes. Not only are you buying a premium, non-tree-killing toilet paper, but 50% of their profits go to help build toilets for people in need.

How cool is that?

You’re helping make someone else’s life more hygienic and better, just by simply buying an essential!

Also, if you only need to buy toilet paper twice a year, the price is actually less all together than it would be if you were, say, buying it every month. It’s a bigger price at once, but over-all it should actually be cheaper.

Unless you’re getting your toilet paper from Dollarama or something, in which case I beg you to stop doing that to yourself and test out these guys. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Not only is this company helping to save the planet, and help people in need, but they also individually wrap their rolls, so that they are also plastic free!

This is the wrapping on the bamboo rolls.

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These are the wrappers on the recycled paper rolls.

Not only does the wrapping make the rolls pretty to look at, but you can also re-use it for crafts, projects, or even to wrap presents!

Who Gives a Crap is hands down one of the best companies I’ve ever found, and I seriously cannot recommend them enough!

If your toilet paper situation is fine, or you still have reservations about going paperless, they do sell a few other paperless replacements, like tissues or paper towels. You could always try testing those out first, and then move on to the more ‘intimate’ product later.


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2021 Zero Waste Goal Recap (+2022 Goals)

This article was written 21.12.05, please excuse any joke/reference that’s no longer applicable.


Happy new year!

How was everyone’s holiday break? Good? Bad? Stressfully filled with no (or very few) zero waste options?

Don’t worry if you ‘slipped up’ this past holiday season – that part of the year is literally designed to be thrown away. Think about it: plastic decorations, wrapping paper, gift bags, cards – everything that makes it ‘festive’ is basically just fancy trash!

You don’t have to beat yourself up if you used a festive napkin at a get-together or couldn’t resist buying a plastic decoration. These things happen. The important thing to remember is that the Earth doesn’t need everyone doing zero waste perfectly, it needs everyone doing it imperfectly.

As long as you’re trying to do better, you’re already ahead.

Speaking of trying to do better, at the beginning of last year, I made this post, which outlined my zero waste goals for 2021. And I thought, since I went to the trouble of making a post telling you what my goals were, it would be kind of dumb if I didn’t make a follow up post to let you know whether or not I actually reached them.

To recap, in the post I made last year, I said the main thing I wanted to try and stop using was paper towels, and then zip lock bags, if I managed to stop using paper towels.

I’d like to report that I accomplished removing these things from my life, and I can now move on…but if I did that, I’d 100% be lying!

I didn’t stop using paper towels, and I definitely still use Ziploc bags. Instead, I decided to test out a more eco-friendly toilet paper, and, I’m happy to report, I’ve been using it exclusively since trialling it last year!

I mentioned it in passing in the goals post for last year, that chopping down a 40 year old tree for something you use 1 time and then throw out is crazy – which it is – and the more research I did into toilet paper, the more I felt compelled to change that first.

Since I wanted to change things in order of the most wasteful, so that my changes would have the biggest impact, changing toilet paper actually should’ve been the first thing I changed.

As I was researching paper towels, I stumbled across a stat that blew my mind: 27,000 trees are cut down per day for toilet paper. Per day!

That’s an insane amount of trees being cut down for something people definitely don’t use more than once. Similar to when I went vegan, once I knew, I couldn’t un-know, and I definitely didn’t want to be contributing to that stat anymore, so, I started researching alternatives.

Now, there are varying degrees of alternatives to paper toilet paper – for instance, there are bidets, which are pretty widely known, but thinking about the future, since the bidet is something that has to use water, and attach to your toilet, I decided that wouldn’t be the right option for me. (I’m planning on converting a bus into a tiny house on wheels, and using a dry [composting] toilet – there will actually be an article coming out later this year explaining this in more depth)

Then I found a more… let’s call it ‘unique’ alternative called Family Cloth. This one… well, it probably is the most eco-friendly, since it involves taking what would otherwise be trash and reusing it, but, it also seems the most gross and labour-intensive.

For those of you who don’t know, Family Cloth is pieces of clothing (usually old t-shirts/sweaters/flannel) that have been cut into squares, for you to use like toilet paper. After using, you put the soiled cloth into a bucket of water (or, it might be some sort of water/vinegar cleaning solution) and then you wash the cloth using a washing machine.

While it might not be as gross as I’ve built it up in my mind to be (I’m assuming it might be like reusable period pads – there was a time when I thought I would never use them, and now I use them exclusively), Family Cloth is just something I don’t think I could do, at least for the time being.

That’s why I was over-the-moon excited when I discovered a brand called Who Gives a Crap. They sell toilet paper (and a few other products) that is more eco friendly than conventional toilet paper. They have two kinds available, a bamboo, or a recycled paper version. You’ll be getting a full review of them later this year (March), so I won’t go into too many details, but I ended up trying (and loving) their bamboo paper, so I decided to switch to them once I got my order.

And, I’m happy to report, it wasn’t actually that hard! The difference is very minimal, and I’ve actually gotten used to the texture difference, and don’t even really notice it now. As stated above, this is the only toilet paper I use now, so it was a great switch for me to make.

So, while I didn’t technically reach my zero waste goals for last year, I ended up changing a bigger, and arguably, more important aspect of my life. Which leads me to: my 2022 zero waste goals!

I think I’ll stick with last year’s goals of trying to remove paper towels and, possibly, plastic zip-lock bags. Who Gives a Crap has some Forest Friendly paper towels (they’re made out of bamboo and sugarcane), so I’ll check those out, while I also try to cut back on my over-all use of paper towels. Just because they aren’t made out of trees doesn’t mean I should feel complacent with still producing garbage!

Since I was actively thinking and observing my paper towel use last year, I realized the reason I use them the most is to cut up food or use them instead of a plate. Which is dumb, because I should just be using a cutting board, instead. Or, y’know, a plate!

I don’t even know when it happened, but at some point, grabbing a paper towel just became ‘faster’ than grabbing a cutting board or a plate. Which is actually bullshit, because it literally takes the same amount of effort to grab a paper towel as it does to grab a cutting board or plate.

Do you have any zero waste goals for this year? Let me know in the comments below!


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Zero Waste Christmas Gift Ideas

This article was written 21.06.07, please excuse any reference to the COVID pandemic that no longer applies.


So you’ve decided to go zero waste, or someone you know has decided to go zero waste. Everything was going swimmingly until you realized the holidays were coming fast, and now you’re freaking out because you don’t what you’re gonna do.

First: take a deep breath.

Your loved one didn’t turn into an alien, you can still give them very meaningful gifts without having to create a lot of waste. Your loved one also isn’t going to assume that just because they changed their life, that you are now an expert. As long as you try to give them something that aligns with their new lifestyle, I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.

For those who are trying to become zero waste: Your family may get some stuff wrong, or still give you non-zero waste presents – but that’s totally fine! Being zero waste is not about doing everything perfectly, it’s about trying. As long as you’re trying to do better, you’ll be fine.

Though if you’re super anxious about what they may get you, give them a list! Or, send them this article so they can get some zero waste ideas.

 

Gift Idea #1: Gift Cards

Sure, it’s a little cliché, but gift cards are actually great presents! As long as you know a store the person likes, you’re set. No having to worry about whether you got the right thing, in the right colour, or if they even need the thing – just give them a gift card, and boom! Done. You don’t even have to wrap it! Which is great for the whole don’t-create-waste thing. (Though you may want to at least put it in a card and not like… Frisbee it at their head)

When I was younger (elementary school age), I remember one time I got a gift card from a family member as a gift, and I remember feeling insulted. Every single year, they asked me and my siblings for a list of stuff we wanted, and every single year? They never got us stuff off our lists! This used to drive me crazy! Honestly why would you ask someone what they wanted as a gift and then not buy it?

Anyway, the year I got the gift card, I was upset, because I had given them my list, and they didn’t get me something off it. Again. I felt like they were saying they couldn’t be bothered to actually get me something I wanted (even though I gave them a list).

It wasn’t until later when I went to actually use the gift card that I realized: instead of buying me 1 thing I wanted that I probably wouldn’t like by this time next year, they gave me the freedom to pick whatever I wanted. (As long as it was within the gift card’s price range)

Once I figured that out, I started asking for gift cards every year, and now love to get them! I not only like having the freedom to pick whatever I want, I also think there’s a bit of privacy at play here – yes, they’re family and they might love you, but they don’t need to know every single thing you own.

 

Gift Idea #2: Dry Mason Jar Mixes

You’ve probably seen these on Instagram, or Pinterest, and though I kind of hate how popular they’ve become (I don’t need 100 almost-identical jars to flood my feed every year), they’re actually a pretty cool idea.

You don’t even have to be a good cook to give out these babies! All you need is the ability to measure and pour, and a container you don’t mind never getting back. You don’t even have to really dress them up – just give them a nice-looking label, and maybe tie a ribbon around the lid and you’re done.

There’s also all kinds of dry mixes you can give people: cookies, brownies, cake, cupcakes, pancakes – whatever baked good their hearts desire! You will need to include a recipe card for these, so they do contain a little waste, but it’s way less than having to buy a product (that’s usually in plastic packaging) and then wrapping that in something just to throw it away.

Also, they (or you!) can reuse the jar!

 

Gift Idea #3: An Experience

Similar to the gift card idea, this gift can be great, though some people may turn up their nose at it. You could pay for them to have a massage, a cooking class, concert tickets, a subscription to something you think they’d love – whatever you pick, just make sure it’s an ‘experience’ instead of a physical product. You could also go with them and then your gift is a twofer of not only being a cool thing they can talk about later, but it’s also turned into a good bonding experience.

People often look back on the experiences and things they tried with fondness rather than an item. Life is all about experiences, so why not make someone else’s a little cooler and give them the chance to try something they might not otherwise get to?

If you still want to gift the person an actual item, try to make it something you know they’ll use a lot, or something you know they need, like clothing or a kitchen appliance. Also, see if you can skip the wrapping paper by using a gift bag, or see if you can get some recycled paper and/or paper tape. That way, it’s as zero waste as possible.

Or, you could do what my dad used to when I was little: tell the gift receiver to stick out their hands and close their eyes. (He did this because he is terrible at wrapping presents, so he’d often forego wrapping all together and just hide whatever it was behind his back) Can’t get more zero waste for wrapping than using none!

I hope the above ideas have helped to get your zero waste gift-giver ball rolling. It’s really not that hard to make things ‘zero waste’, it just takes a little bit more thought when you’re first getting started. But, once you’ve gotten the hang of it, it’ll become as normal as any of your other traditions/lifestyle choices.

Case in point: Even before I ever heard of the words ‘zero waste’, I was trying to think of homemade gifts I could give my family because I was broke. (Want to give a stranger a zero waste present? Sign up for my Patreon! Doing so allows me to continue bringing you the content you love, for as little as $1/month!) I decided to make homemade snacks and handed them out in jars I got from Dollarama.

AterImber.com - No. Mad. - Zero Waste - Zero Waste Christmas Gift Ideas - Snack Jars - zero waste, vegan snacks, zero waste gifts, x-mas gifts, gift ideas, vegan food, sustainability

AterImber.com - No. Mad. - Zero Waste - Zero Waste Christmas Gift Ideas - Snack Jar Innerds - zero waste, vegan snacks, zero waste gifts, x-mas gifts, gift ideas, vegan food, sustainability

Everyone loved them! Not only did almost everyone finish their jars before the get together ended, they also marvelled at how ‘unique’ a gift idea it was. I didn’t think they were going to finish them at the party, but it worked out well, because everyone who finished gave me their jars back and said they wanted a refill for next year. So I reused the jars the next year, and again, they were a hit.

I planned on reusing them again, but that’s when the pandemic hit. Not to worry though, I still have them! They’re just waiting to be used whenever we can see each other again. I even left the labels and bows on, so everyone keeps getting their own jars back!


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